It may sound strange to say that branding and parenting have anything in common at all. However, when we consider what we want the end result to be for both, there are a couple truths that quickly rise to the surface.
(And, for the record, you don’t have to be a parent to understand this. Anyone who spends any time around kiddos – whether that's as a neighbor, friend, auntie, volunteer, teacher, or coach – will see that this is true. So that pretty much includes all of us!)
So what IS the endgame of our parenting?
Ultimately, we want our children to grow and thrive.
Sure, our methods and motivations will vary greatly. Sure, there are forty-eleven different ways to define “growth” and “thriving”. But regardless, year after year we willingly (some days more willingly than others) put in the time, effort, expense, sleepless nights, and tears now in the earlier stages, so that they will expand, flourish, and become all that they're meant to be in the future. Do we have any guarantees? Nope. Does that stop us from trying our best? Not a chance.
That’s really what we want for our brand as well. We want it to grow and thrive. We want it to expand beyond what we can see or dream of right now.
So how do we help our children AND our brands grow and thrive in the best way possible? This requires 2 things.
1 | Both require focused attention.
Unless you live in Neverland, children can’t be left to raise themselves, and neither can your brand. It requires attention, sometimes more than you want to give at the moment. The good news is that paying more attention at the beginning will mean that you can “back off” a bit down the road. I don’t parent my teenager the same way I did when she was 2. Some days it’s tempting, but it would be absolutely futile and totally weird! In the same way, intentionally starting your branding off on the right foot with a clear design and direction will allow some of your brand’s growth to happen on autopilot. You still need to check in and stay aware, but it takes less time and energy as you go.
2 | Both require consistency.
Most experts agree that children thrive on consistency. It gives them security and confidence to know where the boundaries and expectations are, and that builds trust between parent and child. Even as adults, most of us still expect some consistency in our lives. It’s unnerving when a boss, client, or loved one suddenly throws a wrench in the plan with no warning or explanation. In a similar way, your brand will also thrive on consistency.
When a client interacts with any part of your business – your website, blog posts, social media platforms, and especially YOU – you need to represent your business consistently in order to build recognition and memorability. Those factors lead to something foundational and invaluable in your client relationships – TRUST. And trust is at the heart of having clients who love you and want to work with you.
This is why your unique visual brand palette should be used everywhere. Resist the urge to deviate and try a new font or color. And consistency isn’t just about your graphics. If you have a headshot, use the same one across all your platforms. When you write, do it in the voice that really sounds like you. When you answer emails, reply within the expected time frame. Even the little things you do to build trust will be worthwhile down the road.
There’s one more area where I'd recommend consistency. Research shows that people work best and have less overload when they have a consistent routine. Yes, even those of us who are creatives or makers! I credit my business mentor Jenny Shih and Matt Perman’s book, What’s Best Next, for helping me see the light on this matter. (You can read more about Perman’s book in this post.) Call it a weekly schedule, a time map, or your ideal week. Regardless of what you call it, just do it!
Unless you're already familiar with this concept, it’s likely not what you think it is. This isn’t a strict, itemized to-do list of your week, with each day planned out in 15-minute increments. It’s more like time blocking, grouping similar activities to help you be more focused and productive within the time you have.
Here’s an example of my current ideal week. Do I successfully follow it each week? Nope. Does it give me a great, flexible framework to accomplish what’s important without staring at my calendar wondering what to do next? Absolutely.
Honestly, this is still a real struggle for me. Maybe it comes from being creative and wanting the flexibility to just go with the flow and not feel restricted. But I find that, in reality, the opposite is true. When I follow my routine, I thrive and am more productive, and when I don’t, I flounder and waste a butt-load of time. If you’re curious and want to learn more, here are two great articles by Michael Hyatt and Cal Newport. Newport’s article is especially insightful into how this works for those who spend most of their time in creative work instead of management or production tasks.
So if you haven’t already, I’m challenging you to set up some consistency and predictability in your week, and see if you feel more settled, less frantic, more productive, and more creative. Then when the unpredictable comes (as it will!), it should seem like a smaller glitch that can be taken in stride instead of a huge curve ball that wrecks your plans. If that's too overwhelming, start with structuring a couple hours each morning or a couple days per week. Big changes come by taking small steps!